Creating The Page: Latina Filmmakers You Should Know

Posted by on March 31, 2023

As Women's History Month comes to close we've chose to highlight some amazing Latina filmmakers who have made their mark within the world of film! Learn all about them here.

Latina Filmmakers You Should Know

When researching Latine filmmakers within the Hollywood industry, the names and numbers are minimal. And that can leave one to ask whether there are any Latine filmmakers out there who have made any type of contribution to the world of historical film. The good news is our community's footprint within film has existed throughout Hollywood's history. In celebration of Women's History Month, we will highlight three films universally recognized as exemplary pieces of cinema. This month's research was founded upon The Academy's book From Latin America To Hollywood: Latino Film Culture In Los Angeles 1967 - 2017. The beauty of this book is that it's filled with content that educates the reader on the rich history that connects Latinos to Hollywood. We've been directors, screenwriters, actors, and actresses, and our contribution to this industry is extensive. It shares what we may not know and, to some, what we need to know. It gives us hope for a brighter future where we can continue to reach greater heights as a community.

So, let's dive into who these filmmakers are!





Screenwriter, director, and editor María Novaro "has made a career defying class and cultural boundaries to make films about economically struggling women and their adventurous incursions into a different kind of life" (25). She's known for creating stories that are "women-centered," allowing the audience to see the world from "another temporality, another relationship with details," tapping into the feminine soul (76). Each piece of work feels personal, perhaps because all her films carry a truth that's uniquely hers. Films like Rodeada Agua (An Island Surrounded by Water, 1984), Las Buenas Heirbas (The Good Herbs, 2011), Lola (1988), and Danzón (1991) are dramas that deal with the lives of single mothers. Having once been a single mother, Novaro caters to the female characters by not making them dependent on men but on "the emotional and spiritual bonds forged with other women. Winner of four Silver Ariel Awards, Sundance's Latin America Cinema Award, and two back-to-back wins at the Premios ACE, her accolades are a small testament to her remarkable contribution to cinema.

Although narrowing down such extensive work is difficult when dealing with masterful films, we will focus on Novaro's latest film, Tesoros.



Unlike her other films, Tesoros isn't dealing with the struggle of single motherhood or the pressures of the world that affect the female experience within it. Instead, Novaro desired to create a film for children showcasing realism within a magical fantasy. Back in 2017, in an interview with Variety titled "Mexico's Maria Novaro on 'Tesoros,' Mexicans' Joie de Vivre," she mentions how she wanted a fantasy that was "completely linked to the real world, a world as experienced by children...a paradise, though part of one of the most violent states in all Mexico, the state of Guerrero."

Tesoros was released in 2017 and is edited, directed, and written by Novaro. The film beautifully captures how a young boy named Dylan encourages a group of kids to join him in finding the long-lost treasures of Francis Drake in the Costa Grande of Guerrero, in Barra de Potosí. From then on, we experience their journey through a documentary style of filming that allows the viewer to stay connected to the pureness of this journey. The narration makes it feel as if the characters themselves are sitting with us, re-telling this magical story with a joy only children know. That supernatural optimism within the film is allowed to flourish because these kids encourage each other and gain the support of every adult they encounter. Usually, there is resistance, a brutal reality the grown-ups attempt to instill within the kids, but this film gifts the kids hope in finding the treasure hidden within the depths of the sea.


Tesoros is available for rent and purchase on Amazon Prime Video. Click here to learn more. 





Paz Alicia Garciadiego, born in Mexico City, Mexico, is best credited for writing scripts that contain a language that is "down to earth, injecting a fatalistic, ironic sense of humor" combining "indigenous and Spanish culture to capture Mexican colloquialisms" (22). As a young girl, she was under the care of a Hungarian Gypsy, and she would take her to a movie theater while her family believed she was at a park, and she'd sit there and watch American films as a two-year-old. Although the place was huge and scary for a young Garciadeigo, this is where her love for film was born. She was exposed to Quo Vadis, King Solomon's Mines, Shane, and musicals, many of which she saw more than once. As an adult in the world of major motion pictures, her collaboration with her husband, renowned Mexican director Arturo Ripstein, has shaped his film's world into a "place of tormented souls, shifting mortality, violent acts, absurdity, and wretchedness." Her films have been featured at Cannes, Venice, Sundance, and many more reputable film festivals. Undeniably, her voice is uniquely at the service of her community, penning "over a dozen densely complex screenplays that probe the wicked side of human nature" (88). Thus, that leads us to the film we have chosen to highlight within Garciadiego's long list of works, Deep Crimson.



Deep Crimson (1996) is a crime/romance film set in Northern Mexico during the 1940s. Nicholas, a man hungry for wealth, lives his life scamming lonely widows out of their fortunes by luring them in with his charm and, unbeknownst to them, a fake Spaniard accent. His schemes have a pattern. To initiate the relationship, Nicholas sends out a letter to the women, and with empty words and promises, they fall for his Romeo act. It seems that no woman can resist his charm as audiences watch Carol, a rotund, passionate, single mother of two, slowly give up her entire life for Nicholas. She leaves her job as a nurse, gives up her two kids to an orphanage, and when she learns all about his treacherous schemes, she vows to be his loyal partner in crime so long as he loves her. This is where the adventure begins, and from here on, audiences follow the slow demise of Nicholas and Carol as they travel around scheming elderly lonely widows. The beauty of this film, besides its stunning cinematography, is the depth these characters have. Nicholas and Carol are severely flawed human beings who somehow complement one another. Nicholas is an arrogant and money-hungry man who utilizes his charm to navigate life. While Carol is so deeply alone that any sense of morality can be tossed out the window so long as she has Nicholas by her side. And even though he is deeply disturbed, it's all worth the risk. The dialogue between Nicholas and Carol is so eloquently put that one tends to forget that these two are run-away criminals committing unthinkable acts. That is where Garciadiego's deliverance of romanticism within a deeply flawed world shines because it greatly balances their despicable acts while showcasing their imperfect love for one another.


Deep Crimson is available to watch on The Criterion Channel through Roku. Click here to learn more. 




Born in 1966 in Salta, Argentina, a true legend was born. Lucrecia Martel is a director, writer, and editor "internationally recognized for her distinctive visual style" (78). Martel's style of filmmaking "thwarts audience expectations for closure, leaving us with open-ended narratives that frequently test the boundaries of perception." In her Academy Visual History Interview, she says, "usually someone thinks of cinema with a more linear narrative storyline...but for me, the point isn't to understand one storyline, which is only one element of among many...It has more to do with perception than understanding" (79). As a child, she grew up listening to her grandmother's scary stories, which blended realism with the fantastical, and that same sense of oral narrative is what she chooses to inject within her films. For her, filming a story through the same patterns of oral narration provides "indirection, deviations, and repetitions" (79). Thus, with any film of Martel's, her work aims to hint at something more profound, and the film's purpose is to experience its world and characters organically. Martel's fame originated with her 2001 drama La Ciénaga. The film won the Alfred Bauer Award at the Berlin film festival and the NHK Award at the Sundance film festival. Most recently, it was introduced to the Criterion Collection in 2015, inaugurating it as a staple within American cinema.



La Ciénaga begins fast and confusing. The audience is first exposed to a scene where a bunch of adults lay on chairs next to a dirty pool on a gloomy, hot day. We don't know who anyone is, and very quickly, the scene escalates as Mecha, the mother of the family, suffers a minor accident as she drunkenly falls on wine glasses. And surprisingly, not one person stands up in concern. They all continue as if nothing has happened. From then on, we explore the lives of these family members living in the northwestern region of Argentina. "The film's portrayal of family dynamics is neither sentimental nor overly dramatic, but one in which characters are possessed by an abundant sense of discomfort" (79). Mecha is a woman who sees the reality of her marriage and feels disenchanted with her husband, Gregorio, who once embodied everything she desired in a man.


Meanwhile, her son, Jose, comes for a visit, and he seems to be experiencing his own distaste for his wife and doesn't want to go back home to her. Momi, the daughter, has a solid connection to Isabell, the household servant, and does all she can to be beside her. Tali, an extended family member, recognizes the dysfunctions her cousin's family has and does all she can to keep up her own appearance. Many scenes are cut to action, leaving things ambiguous until we see the outcome of the situation later in the film. That constant jump allows us to witness all the problems each family member is dealing with. Towards the end, we are exposed to the racism that exists between White and darker-skinned Argentinians. The way the film is tethered together gifts the audience an inside look at this family's life through a raw lens without any sense of closure experienced within western cinema. There's so much to unpack, and it all makes sense. The film leaves us with an eerie and shocking ending giving us no more than we are allowed to know.


La Ciénaga is available for rent and purchase on Amazon Prime Video and on HBO Max with a subscription.

Click here for Amazon Prime Video. 

Click here for HBO Max.





Courtesy of The Academy Museum


Back in 2017, Lourdes Portillo was invited to curate and interview Latin American filmmakers of all kinds. She's a Mexican-born and Los Angeles-raised writer and director who has catered her work to diverse Latine experiences. It is a truly masterful work what she contributed to The Academy's book From Latin America To Hollywood: Latino Film Culture In Los Angeles 1967 - 2017. To have such an extensive body of work easily accessible and dedicated to our community is a treasure.

For a more in depth look at the filmmakers mentioned above and those we didn't get a chance to include click here to watch full interviews conducted for the Academy's PST: LA/LA Oral History project!



We hope you enjoyed this month's highlight and our dedication to Women's History Month. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on all social media platforms to stay updated with the latest Latino news within the entertainment industry.